The EMF Controversy – Common Misconceptions

The EMF Controversy – Common Misconceptions

That EMF harms one’s health is NOT a myth. There are, however, many misunderstandings which lead people to believe in the false dogma that nonionizing nonthermal radiation is safe.

Common Misconceptions

Common Misconceptions Did you know?
Myth: Despite the rise of wireless technologies, brain cancer has not been on the increase.. Studies that look at 10 or more years of use, such as the Leonnart Hardell studies and the Interphone study, do in fact show an increased risk of brain cancer. It has been reported that the heavy use category in the Interphone study included usage as little as 30 minutes a day.

Studies that look at less than ten years are not looking long enough. Cancer from environmental causes often has latencies that take several decades. Dr. Devra Davis explains that it can take decades before cancer becomes apparent in the population. Compare an average of 2 decades for smoking and lung cancer. Thus, the worst is yet to come. She explains that widespread heavy useonly began a few years ago. All the same, brain cancers are happening to people at much younger ages than before, and have been increasing in the last 10 years for young adults, in particular 20-29 year-olds. According to Leonnart Hardell’s studies, children may have a risk that is much greater than adults. British neurosurgeon Kevin O’Neill, MD reports in April 2009 that brain tumours are increasing at approximately 2% per year (and in particular have doubled for his unit in the last year). See also what other neurosurgeons are saying. The Danish Cancer Registry indicates an increase in brain tumors between 2001 and 2010.

Dr. Devra Davis also points out that there are other cancers besides brain cancer that may be related to cell phone use, such as salivary gland tumors, since the salivary gland is close to where the cell phone is held. Women who keep their cell phones between their breasts seem to be having higher breast cancer rates. For more information, see the Environmental Working Group’s Executive Summary.

Myth: Only ionizing radiation and thermal levels of microwaves can cause damage There are now many studies showing biological effects from nonionizing nonthermal radiation. See a list of thousands of studies summarized by as well as a summary of studies by power level. It is time to listen to the science, rather than sticking to outdated dogmas.

Graham Philips explains that even for ionizing radiation, 25% of DNA breaks are caused by direct damage, but another 75% is caused by ionizing radiation’s ability to form free radicals. Since non-ionizing radiation can also produce free radicals, as shown in multiple studies, this is one of the mechanism(s) by which it can affect DNA. For more mechanisms, refer to Genotoxic Effects and Cancer.

Myth: We’ve had TV and radio towers broadcast microwaves for years, and they have been safe.. Epidemiological and survey studies find cancer & other health issues near TV and radio broadcasting towers in addition to cell towers. One of the latest high profile cases is the court-ordered epidemiological study for the Vatican radio tower and cancer. Increased risks of cancer were reported within a 5.5 mile radius.
Myth: We get more radiation from cosmic radiation than from wireless technologies.. Cosmic microwave radiation is relatively negligible, (<0.000001 μW/m2, MAES 2000) since the sources are so distant. Even for ionizing radiation, radon in homes is said to be a greater source of ionizing radiation than cosmic radiation. Even at the EPA limit for radon of 4pCi/L, it has been compared to the equivalent of 200 chest X-rays a year. Local sources are usually a more significant concern than cosmic sources, which by the inverse square law, become less of a threat over distance.
There is no consistent evidence that wireless radiation is harmful..

Misleading: The weight of the evidence points towards no harm.

Many of the adverse biological effects of wireless technologies have been confirmed by more than one scientific group, including DNA breaks, the increase of free radicals, and the opening of the blood brain barrier. Oftentimes, such findings are followed with an attempt to discredit the scientists involved. However, other scientists confirm the findings.

While the majority of industry-funded studies do not find health effects, the majority of independent studies do. The same thing had happened for the Tobacco industry. Anyone studying the research must be careful to “follow the money trail.” Read more.

When we talk about the “weight of the evidence”, we cannot just compare the number of studies finding an effect versus the number of studies not finding an effect. It’s very easy to design a study so that it does not find an effect, e.g., by limiting the time period of the study, but this does not “balance out” the studies that do find an effect. See Study Design Variables which may be Manipulated by Science.

Myth: The wattage of a cell tower is not more than a light bulb, so it must be safe.. There is a recent study on electrosensitivity which suggests that it is the on/off and off/on transitions that may be causing biological effects. Hence, this pulsing quality of the signal, is one differentiating quality between pulsed wireless radiation and a regular light bulb. It is interesting to note, however, that some people do in fact respond to light which flashes at a certain frequency, e.g., Photosensitive Epilepsy. This might also be why modulated wireless radiation may be more biologically active than umodulated wireless radiation. Devra Davis compares pulsing radiation to a car that lurches to a halt and then continues again, and then lurches to a halt again. This on-off-on-off sequence may be more disruptive than steady radiation, just as it would be disruptive to passengers on such a car trying to read.

Microwaves are also different from light in that they can penetrate walls that are opaque to light, and go right through our clothes and skin.

Myth: The authorities say there is no known health effect at this time..
Myth: If it were dangerous, people would have known a long time ago..
While not all authorities say there are health effects from wireless technologies, an increasing number of government health organizations are now calling for precautions in light of the growing scientific concerns. This is remarkable given conflicts of interest.

Industry-funded scientists have had their funding taken away when they found biological health effects, and industry has lobbied to reverse judgments on electromagnetic fields’ danger. In the media, management sometimes intervenes because of advertisement money that is at stake. SeeConflicts of Interest.

Nevertheless, the truth is making its way into official government recommendations despite all the efforts to the contrary. In the last 5 years, many countries’ governments have made wireless health recommendations calling for precautions.

Myth: Double-blind studies show that people who claim to be sensitive, cannot tell whether the signal is on or off.. Therefore, it must be a psychological “nocebo” effect — Otherwise, it is a real, but unrelated health problem. In one study funded by industry, some of the most sensitive people in the double-blinded studies, were extremely accurate, but had to drop out of the study before its conclusion because of severe health issues. Many design flaws have also been pointed out in industry-funded double-blind studies.

We are now beginning to see independent double-blind studies showing objective effects from EMF like arrhythmia and high blood pressure. Even animals, plants, and microbes are reacting to the radiation, and more than one in vitro study has found an increase in DNA double-strand breaks, which can lead eventually to cancer. Studies show that microwaves can open the blood-brain barrierand trigger arrhythmia in animals. These findings are not satisfactorily explained by psychology alone.

Overviews by Dr. Devra Davis and Dr. Martin Blank

Cell Phone Radiation and Your Health (from EON)
Devra Davis is former director of the Center for Environmental
Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh and part of the
group winning the Nobel Prize with Al Gore. She is an
epidemiologist and a toxicologist and recently wrote,
“Disconnect: The Truth about Cell Phone Radiation”
Electromagnetic Fields and Health Risk (from TheEMRRT)
Martin Blank is Associate Professor of Physiology and
Cellular Biophysics at Columbia University.
He is also the past president of the Bioelectromagnetics Society.

Conflicts of Interest in Science, Media, Government, and Health Advisory Committees

Funding Effect No Effect
Industry 27(32%) 57(68%)
Non-Industry 96(70%) 41(30%)
Total 123(56%) 98(44%)

Source: Prof. Henry Lai, Univ. Washington
(Table from Dr. Martin Blank on Electromagnetic Fields).

An analysis of the scientific studies found that the majority of industry-funded studies found no effects, whereas the majority of independent studies did find effects. This is the same thing that had happened for the tobacco and lung cancer studies. It is important, therefore, not only to consider the conclusions of a study, but also its sources of funding.

The media typically presents an undecided viewpoint, one moment raising concerns, and the next moment saying that those concerns are unfounded. Stories are sometimes altered to soften the blow to the wireless industry. When Fortune magazine first reported on electromagnetic hypersensitivity in 1993, Motorola stopped advertising with Fortune magazine for a long time, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost income, according to Microwave News. The media can also have a conflict of interest.

Similarly, the government suffers from a conflict of interest. The wireless industry is reported to be the government’s #2 source of revenue, and has reportedly spent $2.3 billion in political lobbying. (Public Health SOS, The Shadow Side of the Wireless Revolution). Billions of dollars are paid for the allocation of the wireless spectrum.

Even health organizations like the World Health Organization suffer from conflicts of interest, and industry sometimes works to reverse judgments on the danger of electromagnetic fields. See Don Maisch’s article, Conflict of Interest & Bias in Health Advisory Committees. Conflicts of interest can prevent health advisory bodies from sounding the alarm on health hazards.

Scientists Challenged

There are many scientists who have had their funding or positions threatened because they found or spoke out on harmful effects from wireless radiation. These scientists include Henry Lai of University of Washington, Allan Frey, Robert Santini, Carl Blackman of the EPA, Ross Adey, Olle Johansson, Gerald Hyland, Olle Johansson, Annie Sasco, Dimitris J. Panagopoulos, and others. Although their credibility has been challenged, their findings have in many cases been reproduced by other scientists.

For example, Henry Lai, who found DNA effects in response to microwaves, was challenged and threatened. However, similar effects on DNA were later observed by the 7-nation European REFLEX study and by the University of Vienna. There is another interesting story shared by Devra Davis that the Adlkofer study was called a fraud in Science magazine, but that this story of fraud was later ruled to be a fraud itself. There are now approximately 11 studies now pointing towards DNA breaks.

Similarly, Allan Frey discovered blood-brain barrier leakage as a result of microwave radiation, which was challenged. However, Leif Salford expanded upon the work, and also showed that rodents’ brain cells were dying as a result of microwave radiation.

Deceptions in Science

Study design is often manipulated in a way such that effects are not found. For example, children and heavy business users may be omitted from a study due to their increased vulnerability, or the study length is sometimes shortened, knowing that the average time lag can be over 10 years before cancer occurs. (For reference, the approximate time lag for lung cancer with respect to cigarette smoking is 20 years.) For more examples of study design flaws, see:

For examples of deceptions in science, listen to an interview with Magda Havas, “Deceptions with Science”, where she discusses deception through study design, interpretation, and presentation.

Study Design Variables Which May Be Manipulated By Science

The following are some ways in which science can be manipulated:

  • Defining a regular cell phone user as at least one call per week for at least 6 months (Interphone)–thus failing to study the difference between heavy users and light users. See “Heavy mobile users risk cancer”.
  • Reducing the time of the study, knowing that the normal latency for cancer is over a decade.
  • Not controlling for other wireless exposures, such as DECT cordless phones, mobile phone base stations, and Wi-Fi. Users of these technologies may be counted as controls.
  • Removing more vulnerable populations (business users in the Danish study, and children in Interphone). Business users are likely to be the heaviest users, and children are vulnerable for reasons mentioned in The Greater Vulnerability of Children.
  • Only studying brain tumors and not other diseases (e.g., studies suggest higher salivary gland cancer risks, higher prostate cancer for men wearing mobile phones on their belt, symptoms related to infertility in men, and anecdotes are indicating breast cancer for women who hide their cell phone near their breasts).
  • Testing with unmodulated wireless exposures when modulated wireless exposures are believed to be worse.
  • Using sub-groups of animals or cell types with lower levels of susceptibility.
  • Avoiding particular power density windows found in which calcium would be removed from brain tissue.
  • Not taking into account different cell phones with different exposure levels.

Common Deficiencies of Double-blind Studies on Electrosensitivity

Studies trying to disprove electrosensitivity often suffer from the following deficiencies:

  • Insufficient population size and poor adherence of selection criteria as a result
  • Excluding subjects who had to drop out because of health reasons (they were made too ill to continue)
  • Not properly accounting for the time lags between initial exposure and onset of symptoms, e.g., some symptoms last for days. Other symptoms take time to appear.
  • Not taking into account the individualized nature of responses. It was found that different people may react to different signal types and power density levels with different symptoms, just as people react to allergens differently.
  • Not controlling for other exposures such as power line magnetic fields and chemicals, which electrosensitive people sometimes suffer in addition to microwaves. The microwaves may even contribute to their weakened resistance.
  • Not acknowledging that nocebo effects can happen, but do not disprove an effect. Similarly, placebo effects do happen, but do not disprove that a medicine really helps.
  • Not acknowledging that survey studies do find that people are affected with subjective symptoms, even when they do not believe the cell tower is related Even people who do not think they are affected often show higher symptoms around wireless technologies, even though they cannot detect it.
  • Not acknowledging the objective biological effects that have been found by scientific studies.

More Information

  • Watch: A Radiant Day (Norwegian) – Who are the industry and military stakeholders in the issue of mobile phone safety? Do you believe that it is making some people ill? The argument against this is about the double-blind studies that show that people cannot accurately detect wireless technologies. However, these double-blind studies suffer from design flaws as well, similar to the studies on cell phones and brain tumors.
  • Read://

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